Eat or Not To Eat: How to cook with bay leaves
Bay leaves dry very well, and since their flavor intensifies over several weeks after they’re picked and dried, that’s how they’re usually sold. However, sometimes you can find them fresh in the produce department.
If you want to experiment with bay leaves, the easiest way to use them is simply to toss one or two whole leaves into a soup, stew, or braising liquid. Let it simmer along with any meat, vegetables, or stock, and it will infuse the food with a mild herbal flavor.
You can also add a whole bay leaf to pickling brine when making pickled vegetables.
By leaving them whole, they’re easier to see and remove before you serve the dish. If you’re using smaller pieces of bay leaves, try putting them in a tea infuser for easier removal.
Bay leaves are also a classic ingredient in a seasoning blend called “bouquet garni,”which is French for “garnished bouquet.” It’s a bundle of herbs that’s tied together with a string and added to a stock or sauce to boost the flavor.
If you don’t want to worry about accidentally ingesting a bay leaf, or you want to use it in a spice rub, purchase ground bay leaf instead, and use it as you would any other dried, powdered spice.
However you decide to use them, don’t store them for too long.
Dried bay leaves will keep for about 12 months. If you find fresh ones or you grow your own, you can dry them and store them in an airtight container. Alternatively, you can freeze the fresh leaves for up to 1 year.
Adding fresh or dried bay leaves to your cooking liquid can enhance the flavor of your dish. Use them whole and remove them before serving, or buy ground bay leaf powder instead.